Logistic networks across the world are under increasing pressure to meet growing demand while experiencing worker shortages and other restrictions related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Items such as gaming consoles, laptops, bikes, timber, alcohol and even coffee are in shorter supply.
The chief executive of delivery giant DHL Express Australia, Gary Edstein, told The Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday that he didn’t expect the current situation to ease up until at least 2023.
“We’re just going into Christmas peak, it’s actually happening right now as we speak," he said.
"And based on our forecasts, we’ve had to put on an additional 102 passenger aircraft freighters.
“All we do is use the belly of that aircraft, the upper deck is not filled at all, even with passengers or cargo. We’re only using 20 tonnes of capacity of a 100-tonne aircraft.”
A ‘perfect storm’
RMIT associate professor Vinh Thai, who is an expert in supply chain and logistics, said the COVID-19 pandemic - which forced many factories and workplaces to shut down or limit operations during the past 18 months - and increased online shopping by people stuck in lockdown had created a "perfect storm".
“Normally, this demand-and-supply relationship is quite balanced and works quite well, until the COVID-19 pandemic comes, which now makes the supply play catch-up with the demand,” Thai said.
“The current shortage of supply is largely due to a shortage of empty sea-going containers, as most consumer products such as electronics, clothing, and white goods are transported in these containers.”
Thai said that adding to these problems was the fact ongoing cases of COVID-19 infections at ports and terminals triggered temporary closures, and that there were a reduced number of ships in service, which meant some ports were skipped and empty containers weren’t being collected.
He added that Australia was highly dependent on exports for consumer goods.
Australians have been urged to do their Christmas shopping earlier this year, with Australia Post suggesting people send their Christmas parcels by early December at the latest to ensure they arrive in time.
Thai encouraged Australians who couldn’t purchase what they wanted to switch to alternatives, shop local or “think about how to celebrate the festive season differently”.